Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Shannon Taylor Vannatter

The White Rose trilogy for Heartsong Presents is set in the Arkansas towns of Romance (population 1700) and Rose Bud (population 2000). The two small towns are seven miles apart. Romance is known for the re-mailing program and weddings. Romantics send stamped/addressed Valentine’s cards and wedding invitations in manila envelopes to get them mailed with the hand-stamped Romance, AR postmark. Couples come to get married in Romance at the post office, local churches or the Romance Waterfalls. Last spring, my mother, my eight-year-old son, and I took a research trip.

The heroine in White Roses (which releases through Heartsong Presents this month) owns a fictional floral shop in Romance and the hero is a pastor in Rose Bud. I used a real church in Rose Bud as a model. When the Heartsong Presents cover artists asked me for detailed information and pictures for the cover, I realized I hadn’t taken any of the church. I described it to her and with fictional liberty added a few stained-glass windows. I was amazed at how much the cover looks like the real church.

Postal relief, June Sullivan at the Romance Post Office gave me insight and info into the daily workings. I learned how the mail is sorted by route and some postal lingo for the second book. Postmaster Angie Davis gave me the scoop on the weddings. They have three or four weddings a year on Valentine’s Day at the post office. Couples exchange vows in the lobby or outside the office. Someone carved a heart in the parking lot declaring it the Heart of Romance.

Next stop: The Romance Waterfalls. Owner James (Buck) Weatherly took us on an impromptu tour of his privately owned property, he and his wife open to the public for weddings and events. We walked underneath a wisteria-draped archway into a landscaped garden with a heart-shaped flower bed, numerous blossoms and flowering bushes. A wooden walkway leads down to the waterfalls, surrounded by jutting rock/steps with railing all the way down. We could hear the waterfall long before we got there.

Mr. Weatherly built two gazebos and balconies overlooking the waterfalls. Couples get married on the largest balcony and the Weatherly’s open their home for receptions and family reunions. I couldn’t help but include the waterfalls in all three books of my series and the owners agreed to let me have my book launch party there.

Teaser: a realization of true love, a proposal, and a wedding take place at the waterfall in my series.

Last stop: The Rambler Cafe’ in Rose Bud, famous for their steaks. Owner Cheri Limon gave me permission to use her restaurant in a pivotal scene. The rustic restaurant’s plank walls, shelves above each window lined with plants, antique books, and plates was the perfect setting for my hero/pastor to interview a potential associate pastor. Besides hometown friendliness, they have great food and the pie—oh, the pie. Turtle, coconut, pecan, the list goes on.

I’ve made four visits to the Romance/Rose Bud area and learned something new each time. The second book, White Doves is set at the post office in Romance, with a Postmaster heroine and mail carrier hero. The third book, White Pearls is set at a Rose Bud historical Victorian plantation with slave quarters upstairs as a haunting reminder of our racially divided past.

The series has been fun to write and I’ve enjoyed meeting the local people while researching the rich detail and flavor of the area.


Dawn Ford said...

I have to come and visit, it sounds so wonderful. What a great place to base your book out of!

Brenda Anderson said...

I'm holding your book right now, Shannon. The cover church does resemble the actual one. It's beautiful.

I can't wait to come down & visit all the places you've brought alive in your books.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Dawn,

The waterfalls are definitely the highlight. It' so peaceful, I'd love to write a book there.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Come on down!

Lorna said...

I love Romance, Arkansas for a setting. And who can go wrong with waterfalls in a romance? Just thinking about it makes me swoon.

I wonder how many of those recipients of specially postmarked wedding invitations even noticed the postmark. LOL

I'd love to visit this place, too. It sounds beautiful.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hey Lorna,

I thought the same thing about the postmark. Wonder how many brides go to all that trouble and the envelopes just end up in the trash.

Lots of people keep them for a keepsake though. Maybe the bride lets them know ahead of time that the envelope is special.

Linda Fulkerson said...

I had a blast tagging along behind Shannon on one of her follow-up visits to Romance & Rose Bud. The owners of the old plantation home and the waterfalls were so gracious & provided some great information about the history behind the settings. Because I prefer historicals to contemporaries, those tidbits fascinated me.

Erica Vetsch said...

What a perfect setting for a romance series. And wonderful that you got to visit and got to tour the falls and research the post office.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


I forgot to say, Linda took the pictures of the church and the waterfall. All the Romance and Rose Bud pictures on my new website are her handiwork. By the way, my new website is her handiwork.

Loved sharing Romance and Rose Bud with you, Linda.

Hi Erica,

I've so enjoyed the research trips. I always hated research, but actually going to a place to get all the details is fun.

Regina Merrick said...

Shannon, I love hearing about your research trip! Now THAT'S the kind of research I like!

Looking forward to getting your book in my hot little hand!


Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Hi Regina,

Researching the coffee roasterie was the really fun trip, but that's book 3.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Thank you so much for inviting me to be on the Edit Cafe. From the time I started trying to find a home for White Roses with Heartsong, I've visited this blog daily. It's surreal to be a guest here.

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Man, sounds interesting! I can't wait to read your titles!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...

Thanks for the compliment, Cecelia.

I hope the series is as enjoyable to read as it was to write.